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Three weeks, three investments: Vista Equity Partners follows Facebook and Silver Lake to invest in Reliance

Mukesh Ambani has been on the mission to cut Reliance’s USD 21.4 billion net debt.

Reliance Industries is on a fundraising spree. The Mumbai-based company, owned by Asia’s richest person Mukesh Ambani in a regulatory filing said it has raised INR 11,367 crore (USD 1.5 billion) by selling a 2.32% stake in its digital arm Jio Platforms to American private equity firm Vista Equity Partners.

This is the third investment raised by Jio Platforms in the last three weeks.

The deal comes 15 days after Reliance sold a 9.9% stake in Jio Platforms to Facebook for USD 5.7 billion. Earlier this week, Silicon-Valley based private equity firm Silver Lake invested USD 749.7 million in Reliance’s digital arm for an estimated stake of 1.15%.

The recent transaction that values Jio Platforms at an equity value of USD 65 billion and an enterprise value of USD 68.3 billion, marginally higher than its last valuations during the Silver Lake deal, makes Vista the third-largest investor in Jio Platforms after Reliance and Facebook.

“Jio Platforms has now raised INR 60,596.37 crores (USD 8.03 billion) from leading technology investors in less than three weeks,” the company said in the statement. With an aim to get rid of Reliance’s USD 21.4 billion net debt by the end of this year, Ambani has been going all out, selling stakes of Jio Platforms to raise money from American giants.

Jio Platforms is an umbrella entity under which Reliance has created an eco-system comprising of its telecom network, devices, apps, content, platforms, and services. The four-year-old Reliance Jio, the telecom arm of the oil-to-retail conglomerate, that disrupted the world’s second-largest telecommunications market with its dirt-cheap data plans, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Jio Platforms. Relying on this venture, Reliance has been able to sell its vision of creating a digital India to 1.3 billion Indians, primarily focusing on millions of small merchants, micro-businesses, and farmers.

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Texas-headquartered Vista, the newest entrant to Jio Platforms’ cap table, has more than USD 57 billion in cumulative capital commitments and focuses on enterprise software, data, and technology-enabled companies.

“Like our other partners, Vista also shares with us the same vision of continuing to grow and transform the Indian digital ecosystem for the benefit of all Indians. They believe in the transformative power of technology to be the key to an even better future for everyone,” Ambani, chairman and managing director, Reliance Industries, said in a statement.

According to Jayanth Kolla, founder and partner of Bengaluru based business consultancy firm Convergence Catalyst, these deals with the US giants will help the Reliance group provide confidence to its existing shareholders on its ability to attract global players, along with growth potential.

This is crucial for Reliance at a time when it is debt-ridden and has reported the steepest drop in quarterly profit since December 2008 due to tumbling oil prices and declining fuel demand amid COVID-19 pandemic. Late last month, Reliance posted a consolidated profit of USD 845 million in the three months ended March 31, a 39% drop compared to the corresponding quarter in 2019. This was also the first decline in its quarterly profit in three years.

However, the silver lining for the Ambani-led company has been Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (Jio), which posted a net profit of  USD 307.7 million for the March quarter, up 177.5% over last year’s Q1.

After the company announced Vista deal, Reliance Industries share prices shot up by 4%, just 4.5% away from its record high of INR 1,617 registered on December 20, 2019. Since April, the firm’s stock has risen by about 40%.

These large-scale investment deals could also “pave way for other global investors to view the Indian market and players favorably, despite the economic slump,” Kolla said in an opinion piece.